HTML5, What Have You Done Lately?

HTML5 is showing up a lot recently in tech articles and discussions. I'll take a very brief look at what it is, highlight some of the recent tech demo's showing off what it is capable of, and also touching upon some of the criticism that has been thrown around. If you haven't heard of the Epic Citadel or BrowserQuest demos and are interested in web development, it is worth a look.

SimCity: The conflict between Designers and Gamers

Disaster Alert!

The latest launch in the SimCity franchise has met with some rather public failures. Server issues preventing customers from playing the game, saved cities becoming corrupted, immersion breaking AI quirks. Probably the most contentious issue in this whole mess, has been the requirement that players always be online in order to play, even if they only want to play the game single player. This has caused repeated clashes between the long time fans of the series, and the game's developers

A lot of people seem to believe that the only reason for the 'always online' policy is to enforce DRM, preventing piracy at the cost of a worse experience for legitimate customers. SimCity developers countered that the reason for this requirement was that, with the way the game simulation works they needed to do a significant number of the calculations on their own servers; and that it would take a tremendous amount of effort to allow the game to run offline on people's home computers.

This statement turned out to be not at all accurate, as it was found the game can run perfectly fine on home computers without an internet connection.

[Edit - Revisiting this a year later in 2014, the Sim City blog recently released an article about their efforts to code a single player version of the game. It seems that the online calculations they refereed to were specifically about the cross region communication between cities; not the currently active game play of the cities themselves (Other than the effects other cities might have on you). So while you could play offline, you wouldn't be able to save or interact with other city regions.

It is an interesting read, and shows there is more complexities going on in the coding and design choices then are always made aware to the public. On one hand, it still shows that the original design choices they made was to push a series that had been predominantly single player content to a multi-player online only format. But they have gone to lengths to add that single player content back into the game well after the games release.]

Since then the company has responded by saying while they could have developed an offline mode, they rejected that idea because it did not match their vision of creating a game that moves from single isolated cities to interconnected dependent cities.

While this does not address why they made the original claims about the work their hosted servers were doing, it does raise an interesting question about the artistic vision developers have for a game. Say we discard the anti-piracy theory, and take their new claim about why there is no offline mode at face value...


Showcasing Transparent Design, Doulbe Fine, and Amnesia Fortnight!

2 Player Production has made a name for themselves by making high quality documentary videos about the behind the scenes development in game studios. The result has been unique footage capturing an unprecedented level of detail and transparency into the design processes from a very demanding field. Once again we visit Double Fine Studios to see the results of their efforts.

Steam launches Greenlight: Crowd sourcing the gaming catalog

Valve has recently released Greenlight for the steam community, which allows home brew game developers a way to submit their games to be sold on the Steam platform. But rather then Valve deciding which games are made available, they leave it up to the community to vote for the games they want to see.

"Kickstarter Funded!" Now where does the money go?


Kickstarter has taken off in the last year, with the success of some big name projects. The crowd sourced funding model has allowed people with great ideas a chance to succseed even without the blessing of traditional big publishing venues. I've chipped in on a few projects myself, include the hyper successful Double Fine Adventure project which raised over 800% of its initial goal and was the second kick starter project to break a million dollars.

One of the reasons that the Double Fine project itself is exciting, is because part of their project goals is to make the entire development process transparent to the backers. Since they got their funding in March, their private backers forum has had 37 post; 11 major updates from artist, programers, and writers giving a surprisingly in depth work at their work process; and 5 videos posted from the behind the scenes documentary.

In the spirit of backer exclusivity, I don't want to reveal any of the information they have given on the development of the actual game. But there was one update shortly after their project funded, where they laid out just what happens to all that money the Kickstarter raised. This will give us an interesting look at what happens to Kickstarter projects after the countdown has reached zero, and the real work actually begins.


Dungeon Quest Awareness logo

Project: Skyrim Creation Kit

Challenge: Create several useful mods using the Skyrim creation kit

The Skyrim Creation Kit was released this month, giving modders incredible power by giving them access to the same tools that Bethesda game developers used to create this triple A title. A few tweaks to the tool have also allowed modders to easily upload their work to the Steam Workshop, where anyone in the world can then download and use them.

This kit is supported by a full wiki which includes documentation, references, and tutorials of the HUGE amount of features that are available. By huge, I mean in addition to all the referencing tools, level editing, 3-d modeling, scripting, AI, and modelling support (just to name a few); there are thousands of art assets and objects at the players disposal to create just about any kind of addition to the game that modders can think of.

There are a number of skills I hope to work on in the course of this project. Level design and working with 3-D modeling will be a great chance to practice game designing and art skills at a high level. Getting into the scripting aspect of it will also be pretty educating. I originally wanted to wait a bit longer before starting this project on the website, but seeing as the Kit was just released it would be nice to get a mod or two out while everything is still fresh.

So for the few projects I'm looking at for this challenge I want to create:

  • Simple but useful tweak mod
  • Script that improves or adds a game play mechanic
  • An extremely well polished and scripted level

It is going to take quite a while before I work my way through the tutorial wiki so that I can tackle the advanced topics. Since that is probably a month or two away, I wanted to get something quick out for now, just to break ground.

So it is that I have officially published my first mod, Dungeon Quest Awareness, on the Steam workshop!